CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Jan. 5, 2001
UI Museum of Art will show art that celebrates the 'Lure of the West,'
Jan. 20-March 18
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian
American Art Museum," an exhibition that documents our nations
fascination with the scenery and native peoples of its western frontier as
well as the development of American artistic styles and subject matter in
the 19th and early 20th centuries, will be on display at the University of
Iowa Museum of Art Jan. 20-March 18.
Admission to the museum and to the exhibition will be free.
"Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"
features 64 important paintings and sculptures from the 1820s through the
1940s by American artists fascinated with Indian and Hispanic cultures and
the majestic landscapes of the western territories. The artworks, which celebrate
the landscape and pay tribute to Native Americans and their cultures, served
to establish American art and its subject matter as new and exciting to audiences
With this exhibition, which comes after the popular 1996 exhibition "Plain
Pictures: Images of the American Prairie," the UI Museum of Art is literally
following the westward migration of settlers, from the plains and prairies
of the middle west to the mountains of the West.
Howard Collinson, director of the Museum of Art, commented: "In an
unprecedented tour, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has sent some of the
most prized and important objects in its collection across the nation. The
exhibition represents a unique opportunity for Iowans to see this vital part
of Americas cultural heritage."
The opening of the exhibition will be celebrated at the museum noon to 5
p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21. Throughout the afternoon UI Art and Art History faculty
member Joni Kinsey and the museums curators will be on hand to answer
questions about the exhibition; at 1 p.m. Glenn Lonsdale, guitar, and Carlis
Fourot, fiddle, will perform "Songs of the American West, Originals and
Longtime Favorites"; and at 2 p.m. Merry Foresta, Senior Curator, Smithsonian
American Art Museum, will present a lecture on the exhibition, which will
be followed by a 3 p.m. "Tribute to Will Rogers" by Lance Brown.
Other events related to the exhibition will take place at the museum during
January, February and March, including musical performances, readings and
a series of lectures and discussions on "Western Topics." Among
these will be a lecture on "Meskwaki History" by Johnathan Buffalo
and Suzanne Wanatee, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, followed by "Lightening
Boy," a performance featuring Meskwaki singers and drummers.
"Lure of the West" encompasses more than a century of art, moving
from the excitement of exploration to the establishment of a national mythology
about the West. The Smithsonian Institution, founded in 1846 just as interest
in western territories and peoples was expanding, played an active role in
this story. The Smithsonian sent scientists and artists on various government
expeditions to advise on land-use policies and gather art and artifacts into
its rapidly burgeoning collections.
"First explorers and trappers, then settlers and immigrants were drawn
to the lands and opportunities for a new life in the American West,"
said Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. "Artists
were quick to discover new and exciting subjects in the vast wilderness, mountains
and prairies, as well as in the native and Hispanic peoples who lived beyond
the Mississippi River."
"Lure of the West" features many portrayals of Native Americans.
The earliest work in the exhibition is a group portrait of five Pawnees by
Charles Bird King, made in the artists Washington, D.C., studio in 1821,
when the delegation of Indians traveled east to negotiate territory rights
on behalf of their tribe.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is formed by 18 portraits of Native Americans
and scenes of Plains Indian life by George Catlin, an artist who was featured
in "Plain Pictures." In the early 1830s Catlin followed the path
of explorers Lewis and Clark, traveling up the Missouri River into the Dakota
Territories. These works are part of Catlins "Indian Gallery"
of approximately 500 paintings, which he exhibited throughout the eastern
United States and in the capitals of Europe, inspiring a wave of interest
in the American frontier and Indian cultures.
John Mix Stanley chronicled Indian customs and people in 150 paintings that
he placed on deposit at the Smithsonian in 1851, hoping they would be purchased
by the U.S. government. His three works in the exhibition were among the few
paintings that were not in the Smithsonian Castle Building when it went up
in flames in 1865, destroying most of Stanleys lifework.
Several works from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, made after tribal
groups were largely defeated and confined to reservations, reveal the regret
and nostalgia felt by many American artists.
Artists fascination with the West mirrored the nations determination
to settle the American continent coast to coast. Waves of miners, settlers
and soldiers pressed westward in a movement attributed to "Manifest Destiny"
-- a phrase meant to imply that Europeans were destined by God to spread their
religion and way of life. In this process of nation-building they transformed
the lands and devastated native cultures.
Several artworks show the ambitious enterprise that inspired so many to
move west. Charles Christian Nahl and August Wenderoth followed the rush to
California when gold was discovered there in 1848. Unsuccessful at mining,
they turned to recording the life of the "49ers" in paintings. Emanuel
Leutze borrowed a famous phrase that embodied the concept of Manifest Destiny
-- "Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way" -- for his 1861
study for a mural in the U.S. Capitol, showing a wagon train of settlers journeying
to the Golden Gate near San Francisco.
The exhibition includes Albert Bierstadts 10-foot-wide masterpiece,
"Among the Sierra Nevada, California" (1868), as well as two smaller
landscapes of a sunrise in California and a mountain range in Alaska. Thomas
Morans landscapes in the exhibition include views of the Upper Colorado
River in Wyoming Territory, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Kanab
Canyon in Utah.
Several artists in the exhibition were part of the Taos School, begun informally
when East Coast artists visited the Southwest in the 1890s. Over three decades
it became a thriving year-round artists colony in Taos, N.M. Most had
studied in European academies; all had mastered the use of strong color, bright
light and bold compositions. They portrayed not only Indian subjects but also
the dramatic landscapes and age-old Hispanic cultures of the Southwest.
To accompany the exhibition the Smithsonian American Art Museum has published
an illustrated gift book, "Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian
American Art Museum." Retailing for $19.95, the book features more than
60 color illustrations and brief discussions of the individual art works in
the exhibition. This book and other items relating to the history of the American
West will be on sale in the Museum of Art Gift Shop, located next to the museum
"Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"
is one of eight exhibitions in "Treasures to Go," touring the nation
through 2002. The Principal Financial Group is a proud partner in presenting
these treasures to the American people.
Programs and exhibitions at the Museum of Art are supported in part by a
grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Local sponsors of
"Lure of the West" include Meskwaki Bingo/Casino/Hotel, the Gazette
family of companies, Humanities Iowa, Tru Art Color Graphics, the Iowa Arts
Council, and the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art, Inc. of Iowa City is the corporate sponsor
for events at the UI Museum of Art during the 2000-2001 season, through the
University of Iowa Foundation.
More information and full itineraries for "Treasures to Go" can
be found on the SAAM web site at http://AmericanArt.si.edu. For information
on the UI Museum of Art, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/uima on the World Wide
Web. Information is available on other UI arts events at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa.
The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is
open 10 a.m. to
5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday;
and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available
in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north
of the museum.
* * *
"Lure of the West:
Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"
List of Related Events
Sunday, January 21
12 5 p.m. "A Celebration of the American West," opening
of exhibitions: "Lure of the West," "Ansel Adams and
the National Parks," "19th-Century Photographs of Native Americans
from University ofIowa Libraries Special Collections"
1 p.m.: Musical Performance: "Songs of the American West, Originals
and Longtime Favorites," GlennLonsdale, guitar, and Carlis Fourot,
2 p.m.: Lecture: "Lure of the West," Merry Foresta
3 p.m.: "A Tribute to Will Rogers," Lance Brown
Friday, Jan. 26
7:30 p.m. Lecture: "Meskwaki History," Johnathan Buffalo and
Suzanne Wanatee, followed by "LighteningBoy," performance featuring
Meskwaki singers and drummers
Thursday, February 1
3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "The California Gold Rush and the American
Nation," Malcolm Rohrbough
Friday, February 2
7:30 p.m. Lecture: "The Taos Society of Artists," Brady Roberts
Thursday, February 8
3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Cowboy Drag: Gender and Sexuality
in the Western Film," Corey Creekmur
Friday, February 9
7:30 p.m. Square Dancing: Will Mentor, caller
Thursday, February 15
3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Buffalo Bill," Phillip Round
Friday, February 16
7:30 p.m. "Home to Iowa: Letters from the Western Trails," reading
by Kathryn Wikert, accompanied by Kristin Fallon, harp, followed by
a musical performance by Kathy Lee Ogden and Renegade
Thursday, February 22
3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Refocusing the Gaze: An Examination of
Contemporary Native American Photographers," Jennifer Vigil
Friday, February 23
3:30 p.m. Panel Discussion: "Western American and Native American
Literature: 19th Century to the Present," Lori Muntz and Jane
7:30 p.m. Reading: "Western Poetry and Prose," James Galvin
Sunday, February 25
12-5 p.m. WOW! Family Day
"A Journey West Through Stories," Judith the Storyteller
"Picture Story Theatre," Deanne Wortman, storyteller, and Tom
"Songs of the American West, Originals and Longtime Favorites,"
Glenn Lonsdale, guitar, and Carlis Fourot, fiddle
Videos, refreshments, self-guided tours and drawing for prizes
Wednesday, February 28
3:30 p.m. Western Topics: "Taming Actresses on the American Theatrical
Frontier," Kim Marra
Friday, March 2
7:30 p.m. Demonstration and Lesson: "Lasso and Lariats," Dustin
Saturday, March 3
2-4 p.m. Tour of UI Museum of Natural History and UI Museum of Art: "Explorations,"
David Brenzel (starts at
Museum of Natural History at 2 p.m.)
Sunday, March 4
2 p.m. Bette Spriestersbach Distinguished Lecture: "Air Guitar and
other Western Topics," Dave Hickey, Buchanan
Auditorium, John Pappajohn Business Building
Thursday, March 8
3:30 p.m. "Places Into Paintings: Thomas Morans Working Methods,"
Friday, March 9
7:30 p.m. Musical Performance: Dean Rathje and Gayla Drake Paul, acoustic
banjo, mandolin and guitar
Friday, March 16
7:30 p.m. Musical Performance: Chris Ridge and Stampede